Hippocrates (the Father of modern medicine – you have probably heard of the Hippocratic Oath) said ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’. Ann Wigmore much later stated that ‘Food can either be your fastest form of medicine or your slowest form of poison’. Unfortunately in today’s times, the food we are eating more commonly has an effect of the latter; this is evident when you look at the statistics which state that over 70% of today’s deaths are being fuelled by our diets and lifestyles. It takes one look in a supermarket and the aisles and aisles of prepackaged “food” to see a large reason why. What is almost just as concerning is that the types of foods that have the most potent ability to promote our health (e.g. fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) may also contain chemicals which compromise our health. How? Because modern day agriculture has adopted the use of insecticides, herbicides and fungicides; collectively known as organophosphates. These are used to kill pests which may cause damage to the crops, but in humans they have been accused of a wide range of health conditions, from infertility to respiratory conditions to food allergies to birth defects.

Asking everybody to adopt a 100% organic diet overnight is unrealistic. Finances and accessibility alone can create barriers before you can even say “two bunches of organic kale please”. For some, a more achievable way to start adopting an organic diet is to begin with avoiding the “dirty dozen”.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a not-for-profit organisation who releases a list of the dirty dozen and clean fifteen each year. The “dirty dozen” is a list of fruit and vegetables which when grown conventionally have the highest amount pesticide residues, whilst the clean fifteen have the least amount of pesticide residues. The EWG website is a great resource for anyone looking for some brain food regarding organic food and farming, GMO’s, environmental sustainability and the health effects of these.

The Dirty Dozen:

1. Strawberries
2. Spinach
3. Kale, collard and mustard greens
4. Nectarines
5. Apples
6. Grapes
7. Cherries
8. Peaches
9. Pears
10. Capsicum/peppers
11. Celery
12. Tomatoes

The Clean Fifteen:

1. Avocadoes
2. Corn*
3. Pineapple
4. Onion
5. Papaya
6. Frozen peas
7. Eggplant/aubergine
8. Asparagus
9. Broccoli
10. Cabbage
11. Kiwi fruit
12. Cauliflower
13. Mushrooms
14. Honeydew melon
15. Cantaloupe/rockmelon

You can read the full list here. Do keep in mind though that the EWG is an American resource, and there are different pests and different pesticides used in different regions. The dirty dozen and clean fifteen isn’t going to be 100% reflective of the rest of the worlds farming practices, but it is a good place to start.

*Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is our Government agency which creates guidelines to regulate ingredients, colours, preservatives, additives etc used in our food production. Here is their list of current genetically modified (GMO) foods in Australia, some of which feature on America’s clean fifteen list (I’m looking at you, corn).

I appreciate that not everyone is able to (or interested in) incorporating organics into their diet. For some, the focus is on actually starting to meet the minimum daily recommendations for fruit and vegetables (2 and 5, FYI), let alone shopping for organic produce! But do know that every item of organically grown food that you purchase is a small step towards supporting not only your health, but also the health of the farmers and the health of the environment.

For more information on organic agriculture please see here.


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